“Baloney Detection” in the era of “fake news”
In attempting to help my students (and extended family) recognize these categories more responsibly — preferably before they share them — I think it’s useful to remember Carl Sagan’s chapter on “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from 1996.
Prohibition and the domestic home
The Volstead Act (implementing Prohibition), in keeping with American legal tradition, gave special recognition to the home and the private, domestic sphere.
Doctor-patient privilege and the common law
Despite being part of the original Hippocratic oath, doctor-patient confidentiality is a relatively new addition to Anglo-American law.
Thinking about evidence and causation in same-sex marriage arguments
A recurring theme in criticisms of allowing same-sex marriage — or, as Obergefell did, in finding that bans violated the fundamental right to marriage — is some variation of the “slippery slope.”
New-Fashioned Quarantine (from 1916)
One traditional method Hill discusses is quarantine — but Hill gives it a rational spin, characteristic of early twentieth century optimism and trust in science and expertise.
Warrantless wiretaps and the Fourth Amendment: why would a court allow a violation of the Constitution?
In Appeals Court OKs Warrantless Wiretapping, David Kravets summarizes a recent 9th Circuit decision regarding wiretaps by the federal government. How is this possible?
The shifting critics of experts and expert agencies
During the 1960s, left-leaning critics in the United States began to attack expert agencies they had once supported.
Objectivity, science, and (a)political action
Theodore M. Porter, in Trust in Numbers, argues that the American distrust of elites — and of government itself — has led to a focus on “mechanical objectivity,” or rules to make decisions. In many ways similar to what American jurists call “procedural due process,” the idea is to diminish the necessity of personal judgement in favor of predictable, […]
The problem of expertise in a liberal democracy
Stephen Turner’s book, Liberal Democracy 3.0, provides a useful background to the problem of expertise — especially scientific expertise — in a modern liberal democracy. What is a liberal democracy? First, of course, it’s important to define what a “liberal democracy” is. The term liberal, unfortunately, has acquired a negative connotation for many today, especially amongst conservatives in the […]